Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.
Don’t suppress the Spirit, and don’t stifle those who have a word from the Master. On the other hand, don’t be gullible. Check out everything, and keep only what’s good. Throw out anything tainted with evil.
May God himself, the God who makes everything holy and whole, make you holy and whole, put you together—spirit, soul, and body—and keep you fit for the coming of our Master, Jesus Christ. The One who called you is completely dependable. If he said it, he’ll do it! (I Thessalonians 5:16-24)
Many of us remember this Gaudete Sunday – Sunday of rejoicing. The day on which the third Advent candle on the wreath was lit. It was not purple, but pink. The color of the day in church was rose, not purple. It was a half-way stopping point on our Advent journey. If we were children, it meant that Christmas was coming very close. If we were a bit older, it meant checking ourselves out on the Advent practices we had promised at the beginning of the season – and re-promising to double our efforts during the final weeks of this season of preparation.
This year’s Advent is nothing like any others I have experienced.
The message of rejoicing, “Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens,” strikes us as inappropriate, if not impossible. Rejoice that a divisive national election season is finally over. Rejoice that the COVID pandemic is within reach of a vaccination that might spare thousands of lives. Rejoice when the traditional Christmas celebrations are canceled? Rejoice that families and friends will not gather in person for a meal or party?
On the other hand, we might think of our brothers and sisters keeping watch from a distance as relatives are hospitalized and isolated for COVID treatment. What of those whose jobs no longer exist? What of those whose government assistance has run out? What about those who make the rounds picking up food boxes for themselves and their families? And those who depend on donated “gently used” toys for their children? In the light of those circumstances, how can anyone “Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens.”
This is the challenge of Advent 2020. Here are three suggestions for this next week:
- Find a piece of good news, heroic or selfless service, or a tiny moment of peace, beauty, or wonder. Celebrate and share this experience.
- Practice prayer as you walk through your day, referring your experiences to the God who is always listening,
- Pause as each hour passes and make a momentary grateful prayer to God for the blessings of that time.
And finally, notice, praise, and thank those whose efforts to help others at this time of year give us all a reason to be grateful and cheerful.
The translation of the Scripture for this week’s reflection is taken from The Message, a contemporary version of the Word of the Lord.